Jaimie Branch’s Fly or Die band celebrates a new record that nixes the sophomore jinx | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Jaimie Branch’s Fly or Die band celebrates a new record that nixes the sophomore jinx


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Jaimie Branch’s 2017 debut LP, Fly or Die, heralded the arrival of an already mature talent. While it wasn’t a secret that she’s a superb trumpeter, it was her chops as a composer and bandleader that made the record stand out. She devised bold themes and galvanic grooves that inspired a band of elder musicians, all fellow ex-Chicagoans, to outdo themselves. (Branch is now based in Brooklyn, but she lived here till 2012.) Her latest release, this year’s Fly or Die II (International Anthem), proves that the success of the first album was no fluke. Once more, Branch has assembled a compelling sequence of exultant melodies, atmospheric improvisations, and panglobal percussive workouts. Drummer Chad Taylor, bassist Jason Ajemian, and cellist Lester St. Louis (taking over from original cellist Tomeka Reid) deliver celebratory performances fueled by the empathy and confidence they developed during a couple years of steady gigging. Branch also has some things to say about American racism, and her dynamic vocal performance on the multipartite “Prayer for Amerikkka Pt. 1 & 2” is every bit as persuasive as her fearless and flexible horn playing. Labelmate Ben LaMar Gay, who has guested on both Fly or Die records, opens the show.   v

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